Just a few years ago a friend told me about a play reading they’d attended at Sheridan College in Oakville. There was this story about 38 flights from all over the world diverted from their U.S. destinations to Gander. It was in response to the September 11 attacks. My friend didn’t know what to make of it, didn’t know how to react. It’s such a tragic story, but the reading had such humorous points and overall happy tempo.
Watching this story come alive on stage, I reacted quite differently than my friend did those years ago. I laughed, I laughed really hard and at moments I was moved and felt the anguish of those passengers. But overall, I rejoiced in the simple fact that, yes, people in New Foundland really are that nice and everyone should know that.
Torontonians Irene Sankoff and David Hein wrote the book, lyrics and music for the Broadway-bound show, in which over 6,500 people are stranded in Gander New Foundland reliant on the hospitality of a city with a population fewer than 10,000.
The first song “Welcome to the Rock” sets the stage for this fast paced musical. It provides the audience with an east coast flare and welcomes the full cast, which combined play about 30 different parts. And, as the show progresses the writing and musical numbers incorporate humour and laughter within the play, allowing the audience to feel at ease, let out a few laughs and find humour in what overall was a tragic day across the world.
The characters highlighted provide a cross cultural view, highlighting moments of tension, fear, sadness and joy. The story of the two new found lovers adds a sweetness that cuts through the tragedy and provides an underlying thread of hope. In such a short 110 minutes (no intermission) you truly feel like you’ve gotten to know each of the characters and feel you’ve been watching them from afar. The way the musical breaks the forth wall also helps in pulling you in and again allowing you to find joy in the stories.
One of my favourite quotes on Come From Away is from Beverly Bass, an American Airlines pilot who needed to divert her plane and a major character in the story line (portrayed by Jenn Colella). She said “It’s not about the sadness of 9/11, it’s about the goodness that came out of it.” And would add, it showcases the spirit of the east coast and the general kindness people can share with one another in a time of need.
Come From Away will begin performances on Broadway on Saturday, February 18, 2017 at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre (236 West 45th Street) and officially open Sunday, March 12, 2017, following Toronto’s Royal Alexandra Theatre run ending Sunday, January 8, 2017.
The Broadway, Toronto and Gander cast of Come From Away features Petrina Bromley (Stratford’s As You Like It); Geno Carr (The Old Globe’s Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas); Jenn Colella (If/Then); Joel Hatch (Annie); Rodney Hicks (The Scottsboro Boys); Kendra Kassebaum (Wicked); Tony Award nominee Chad Kimball(Memphis); Lee MacDougall (Stratford’s The Music Man); Caesar Samayoa (Sister Act); Q. Smith (Mary Poppins); Astrid Van Wieren (North American premiere of Mamma Mia!); Sharon Wheatley (Avenue Q); Josh Breckenridge (The Scottsboro Boys); Susan Dunstan (The Lion King US National Tour); Tamika Lawrence (If/Then) and Tony LePage (Rock of Ages).
Tickets are available via the Mirvish box office, www.mirvish.com and calling 1.800.461.3333.